In 2009, Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) launched its first-ever Women’s Health Heroes Awards to honor women and men who have made championing women’s health their life’s work. Since then, 40 individuals and groups have been inducted into OBOS’s Women’s Health Hall of Fame, selected from hundreds of nominations.
This year is a special year for OBOS; 2011 marks 40 years of activism in the United States and the evolution of OBOS into a vibrant international network of social change activists. Our network partners in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe bring health resources based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to their communities and fearlessly advance the health and human rights of women and girls in their countries. They often do so at grave personal risk in some of the most socially and politically charged regions of the world.
They are our heroes, and they are the newest inductees into OBOS’s Women’s Health Heroes Hall of Fame. We’ll post more about each group here on the blog later this summer. Until then, here’s a brief look at why we celebrate them:
- Alternative Culture Publishing (Korea) for leading public discourse on sexuality and prioritizing the needs of young Koreans.
- Anveshi (India) for reminding us that solutions to the health crisis in that country must be situated within a unique and complex fabric of family… caste … class … community… and state.
- “For Family and Health” Pan-Armenian Association (Armenia) for bringing affordable – and free – reproductive care to women and girls across Armenia.
- Cairo Women’s Health Book Collective (Egypt) for going where few have gone with the first Arabic edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” taking on issues taboo in conservative Egyptian society.
- Chinese Women’s Health Network (China) for standing up to government regulation with an underground adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” after its first edition was censored.
- Gender Alliance for Development Center (Albania) for reaching youth with information and skills they can use to make safe reproductive and sexual choices.
- Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et les Lois au Senegal (GREFELS) for empowering women to understand and care for their natural bodies in Senegal, a country where beauty is often defined by largeness and fair skin.
- Mavi Kalem (Turkey) for ingeniously using in-person and online platforms to engage and mentor young activists in the region.
- National Women’s Studies and Information Centre (Moldova) for envisioning and helping lay the groundwork for a national struggle for human rights.
- Network of East-West Women (Poland) for nurturing one of the largest and most respected networks of human rights activists in the region.
- The “Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas” collaboration for articulating unique and common ground in the experiences of Latinas across the Caribbean, North, Central and South America.
- Sanlaap (India) and Manavi (United States) for responding to violence in South Asian communities in both countries and creating a Bangla “Our Bodies, Ourselves” – a first for Bengali literature!
- Shokado (Japan) for reclaiming language and sexuality for all Japanese women and girls by coining new terms for body parts previously written with Chinese characters that convey shame.
- Tanzania Home Economics Association (Tanzania) for developing a Kiswahili resource based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” that will reach the entire East Africa region.
- Tibetan Nuns Project (India) for protecting, educating and empowering Tibetan nuns fleeing persecution and living in exile (and poverty) in India.
- Women and Their Bodies (Israel) for pioneering a peace-building initiative between Palestinian and Israeli women that is publishing Arabic and Hebrew adaptations of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”
- Women for Empowerment, Development, and Gender Reform (Nigeria) for bringing health information based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to 1.5 million women, girls and men.
- Women’s Health Education Network (Thailand) for noting there is no word for “sexuality” in Thai and having the courage to talk about it.
- Women’s Health Project (South Africa) for boldly tackling the impact of apartheid on women and girls in its “Women’s Health Handbook.”
- Women’s Health Promotion Center (Serbia) for giving voice and visibility to women and girls brutalized by ethnic conflict and resulting sexual violence.
- Women’s Health Initiative (Bulgaria) for confronting stigma associated with childlessness in a pro-natalist society and demanding supportive infertility treatment for women who desire children.
- Women’s Health in Saint Petersburg (Russia) for helping to establish the first family planning center in Russia and youth clinics that use the Russian adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” as a key resource.
- Women’s Rehabilitation Center (Nepal) for refusing to back down on its demand for reproductive rights in the recently democratized country’s new constitution.
- Women Unlimited (India) for being one of few South Asian feminist publishers and for publishing an “Our Bodies, Ourselves” edition for women and girls across the region.
It is impossible to capture the diversity of our network partners, the richness of their vision and the magnitude of their impact in a short post. We invite you to meet some of these courageous women at the free symposium on Oct. 1, celebrating OBOS’s 40th anniversary and honoring our network partners. View more event details at www.ourbodiesourselves.org/40thanniversary.asp.
Ayesha Chatterjee is the assistant program manager of the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative.